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Illustrating tradition

Draw-a-Thon at HS of Art and Design creates a studio community
New York Teacher
Educators, students, parents, alumni, professional artists and community members draw and paint
Erica Berger

About 400 educators, students, parents, alumni, professional artists and community members draw and paint mainly live models at the event.

A love of art connects the past to the present at the HS of Art and Design in midtown Manhattan, where the biannual Draw-a-Thon builds on a legacy begun in the late 1970s, when students would gather before class to practice drawing one of their classmates.

A student paints a portrait of a model in costume
Erica Berger

A student paints a portrait of a model in costume.

“The spirit of it is to create a big professional studio environment and work alongside professionals,” said illustration teacher Richard Weinstein, one of the event’s creators. As a student all those years ago, Weinstein and schoolmate Ed Velandria, his collaborator on Draw-a-Thon, were part of the informal “Old Hats Club” created by beloved Art and Design educators Max Ginsburg and Irwin Greenberg.

Now in its 12th year, the Draw-a-Thon attracted about 400 educators, students, parents, alumni, professional artists and community members on Nov. 16 for nine hours of drawing and painting mainly live models.

“We come together to do something we all love to do,” said James Harrington, also an illustration teacher and a former student at the school. “It’s artists sharing, encouraging, joking — in community.”

Art teacher Richard Weinstein gets some painting in
Erica Berger

Art teacher Richard Weinstein gets some painting in when he isn’t assisting students.

Some models posed in costume, and nude models were available in the school’s gym for participants over 18 to practice rendering the human form. They could also portray an art installation made for the event: a life-size replica of a human skeleton, festooned with artificial flowers and brandishing a guitar, nicknamed “Frida” after Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

The Draw-a-Thon is “introducing the student body to the old tradition of drawing from life,” still a requirement for many art colleges, said Velandria, who remains active in the school’s alumni association, which coordinates the event along with staff and student volunteers. Artists buy tickets to participate, with the proceeds going to the school.

Janice Edelman, Art and Design’s Photoshop teacher, said, “This is my chance to sit and do some art. As a teacher, I don’t often get that.”

Donna Lewis, who teaches architecture at the school, credits the event for promoting “collegiality among students and teachers.”

The Draw-a-Thon provides “a lot of exposure and networking with artists and alumni,” said Saori Adams, whose daughter attends the school. She praised Art and Design’s teachers for being “very dedicated to the students” — and to art.

A student squats down to paint on a small easel
Erica Berger

A student squats down to paint on a small easel.